Fatih Birol, head of the International Energy Agency, said a deal to phase out the use of the dirtiest fossil fuel was one of three actions that must emerge from the Glasgow meeting for the rise in temperatures has remained below 1.5 ° C since pre-industrial times. .
Global temperatures have risen by about 1.1 ° C during this period.
“Without solving this problem, the chances of hitting our target of 1.5C are close to zero,” Birol told the Financial Times. “I hope that all countries will be part of an agreement where they can take these first steps for early retirement or the reallocation of their coal plants,” he added.
The British hosts wanted the summit to be known for returning “coal to history” but were forced to weaken the pact to attract more signatories. The deadline has been extended to allow another decade, if not more, for coal-fired plant closures.
After frantic last-minute negotiations, 40 countries, including South Korea, Vietnam and Poland, signed the pledge, which commits them to shutting down their coal-fired plants and stopping licensing new plants.
Six other countries, including Indonesia and Morocco, signed part of the deal, without approving the entire pact. The world’s three largest consumers of coal in China, India and the United States, accounting for 72% of global emissions from coal-fired power plants, have not signed, and neither has Australia.
“Phasing out coal in China and India, even over the next two decades, is simply not achievable due to their reliance on coal to meet demand,” said Dan Klein, Head of Future Energy Pathways, S&P Global Platts.
The United States has said it remains committed to a “clean energy future” and is preparing to end fossil fuel financing overseas. The Biden administration has its hands tied as it tries to win the support of Senator Joe Manchin for his critical infrastructure plan. Manchin is a Democrat who represents the coal-producing West Virginia.
Under the deal, developed countries pledged to stop coal in the 2030s “or as soon as possible thereafter” – against an initial 2030 target proposed by Alok Sharma, president of COP26. The pledge is not legally binding.
Developing countries have until the 2040s or “as soon as possible thereafter”.
Where climate change meets business, markets and politics. Check out FT’s coverage here.
Are you curious about the FT’s commitments to environmental sustainability? Learn more about our scientific goals here
Poland, which unexpectedly signed, said it sees itself as a developing country and will phase out coal by around 2049.
Indonesia, the world’s largest coal exporter and dependent on coal for nearly two-thirds of its energy, has not approved clause three of the pledge, which aims to shut down new power plants and projects.
“We need funds to pull out coal earlier and to build new renewable energy capacity,” said Sri Mulyani Indrawati, Minister of Finance.
Coal prices have reached record highs this year as demand for electricity increased after the pandemic.
Jennifer Morgan of Greenpeace said the coal pact was “one more nail in the coal coffin”, but without the signature of the United States, Australia, China and India, there is had a risk that “the end will not come soon enough”.
Reportage de Leslie Hook, Neil Hume, Jim Pickard, Nathalie Thomas, Camilla Hodgson et Mehreen Khan
As part of our coverage of COP26, we want to hear from you. Do you think carbon pricing is the key to tackling climate change? Tell us via a short investigation. We’ll share some of the most interesting and thought-provoking answers in our newsletters or in an upcoming story.